Monday, December 16, 2019

Lugana DOC Wines and Cantonese Banquet Dinner…When A Pairing is Seriously Done Right!

When Susannah Gold from Vignet Communications approached me about the idea to pair Lugana DOC wines with Chinese food back in May, I didn’t have any doubt if the pairing would work or not. Having tasted Lugana DOC wines many times, I immediately know that these full-bodied and textured white wines would do well with Cantonese food – the food that I grew up with. I was also very excited about the opportunity to work with Susannah, who thinks outside-the-box in terms of pairing her wines with diverse cuisines. With a few word-of-mouth recommendations and its great location, Jing Fong was the first restaurant to kick off the Lugana DOC media dinner series. Let’s see how the synergy erupts between Lugana DOC wines and an 11-course Cantonese banquet!

Lugana is located at the south shore of Italy’s largest lake, Lago di Garda, and lies partly in Veneto and partly in Lombardy. Its geo features a fairly flat basin bounded on the north by Lake Garda. On the west, south, and east, it’s surrounded by low morainic hills, which were formed by the southern push of the great Alpine glaciers of the Ice Age. The unique terroir in Lugana is formed by its uniform clay soils, temperature moderated by the large lake, and the confining hills.

Turbiana is the native signature grape of Lugana wines. To be qualified for the Lugana DOC, at least 90% of the grapes need to be Turbiana.  While the styles of Lugana DOC wines vary from one producer to another, these wines, in general, are dry, lush, briny, and have the stronger mouthfeel that pairs well with fresh seafood that’s cooked with light sauces/seasonings or deep-fried in a light batter.  The Cantonese way of cooking seafood exactly demonstrates the style of less-is-more, showcasing the seafood and discouraging any attempts to mask the ingredients' flavors with sauces.
Top L: Lobster Garlic Noodle, M: Sauteed Shrimp & Chicken, R: Baked Scallops with Crispy Seafood Rolls; Bottom: Assorted Seafood in a "basket"
After tasting all six Lugana DOC wines, it was so hard to prefer one over another as they are all very good with subtle and nuanced differences that fascinate wine lovers. However, there are two standouts – Ca Dei Frati Brolettino Lugana DOC 2016 (SRP$27) and Tenuta Roveglia Lugana DOC Vend. Tard. Filo Di Arianna 2014 (SRP$17), which goes a bit above and beyond by offering the capacity of ageing or velvety texture as a result of late harvest respectively. 
Cellaring Potential
The Brolettino has been aged in oak for 10 months, showcasing mature citrus and tropical fruit. While the crushed limestone is still on the palate – typical of Lugana DOC wines, the lingering bittersweet lime, honey and almond at the finish was impressive. The complexity and structure of this wine go well with the creamier dishes such as baked scallops with crispy seafood rolls and steamed lobster with garlic over E-Fu noodle we had for the night. It also makes me want to cellar it to optimize its ageing potential.

Late Harvest Grapes Making the Arianna a Bit Sweeter
The Arianna is produced using late-harvest 100% Turbiana which transcribes into a bit sweeter wine. It has the light vegetal and delicate nutty notes on the nose. On the palate, it reveals a hint of honey, ripe, juicy, candy fruit, but is balanced with elegant acidity. The mouthfeel is velvety with a salty and minerality finish. I loved this wine with the sautéed cuttlefish with vegetables as well as the assorted seafood in a “basket” as this wine works well with the peppery saltiness of the cuttlefish and the sweetness of the large scallops glazed with cornstarch in the “basket”.  Speaking with this iconic dish in Cantonese banquet - assorted seafood in a “basket”, I have attempted to make it a few months back. My basket was made out of shredded taro instead of the rice vermicelli noddle.

For the rest of the Lugana DOC wines tasted, check out my brief notes below:

〰Cantina Bulgarini Lugana DOC 2017 (SRP$15): fresh, sapid, structured, intense, almond finish

〰Le Mortette Lugana DOC Mandolara 2017 (SRP$11): white flower, fruity, stone-fruit, delicate, bitter almond

〰Ca Maiol Lugana DOC Molin 2017 (SRP$17): pleasant acidity, refreshing, great structure, aromatic herbs, sharp finish

〰Cesari Cento Filari Lugana DOC 2016 (SRP$14): peach blossom, lemon, ginger note, green apple, almond finish

While Susannah called this July event, “Happiness Dinner”, I called it a pairing that’s seriously done right!

Saturday, November 16, 2019

One Rabbit, Two Turkey Drumsticks, and Four Rasteau Wines #Winophiles

Rasteau wines are totally new to me. Where in France do these wines come from? How do they taste? Are they red, white, rose or orange?? Liz of What’s in That Bottle? invited the #Winophiles bloggers to celebrate Thanksgiving with Rasteau wines. What’s even better is Michelle of Rockin Red Blog was able to coordinate the Rasteau samples via Teuwen Communications. With a Thanksgiving invitation and new wines to be explored, let’s see what I cook for Thanksgiving - Chinese-style. Maybe One Rabbit, Two Turkey Drumsticks and wow - Four Rasteau Wines!
Rasteau is an Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée in the southern Rhône wine region of France, located in the Haut-Vaucluse, 21 miles from Avignon and 12.5 miles from Orange, covering both fortified and unfortified wines. The production of fortified wine was introduced in 1934. The Rasteau AOC for VDN wines was created in 1944. Dry red wines from the same area historically had to be sold under the Côtes du Rhône Villages designation. In 2002, the Rasteau winegrower's syndicate requested that Rasteau should become its own appellation, and they were finally approved by INAO in 2010, effective from the 2009 vintage. The Rasteau AOC produces around 96% dry reds and 4% Vin Doux Naturals (fortified red), Rosé or White. The main grape varieties for unfortified wines from Rasteau are Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Picpoul, Terret noir, Counoise, Muscardin, Vaccarese, Picardan, Cinsault, Clairette, Roussanne, and Bourboulenc. 
Photo Credit:
The soils of Rasteau are relatively diverse, although the proportion of clay which gives the reds their distinctive body and richness is higher. The terroir contains clay and limestone soils, skeletal soils on marl, and Safres (a special type of sandy red soil atop sandstone). Situated at the ancient alluvial terraces, this terroir mainly faces towards the south and the sun, at 656 feet of altitude, looking out to the Dentelles de Montmirail mountain range, but is tempered by the cool Mistral winds.

A Rasteau AOC red must have a blend of 50% Grenache minimum and 20% of Syrah and Mourvèdre combined. Each of these grapes plays a crucial role in giving these Rasteau reds a good rep for being structured, complex and balanced: 
  • Grenache Noir: finesse, adds body and roundness
  • Syrah: structure, acidity and aromatic complexity
  • Mourvèdre: structure, tannins and balance

🍷Four Rasteau Wines

🍷Château du Trignon 2015 – Let the family tradition shine!
SRP$25/Alcohol: 15%/Varieties: 60% Grenache, 40% Mourvèdre
Château du Trignon started as a traditional farm, with mixed agriculture and livestock, in 1896 by the Roux family. Five generations slowly refocused the land to vineyards and sold to the Quiot family in 2007. The vineyards span several appellations, with 12 acres in Rasteau. 
How this wine taste?
  • Intense garnet with aromas of ripe blackberry and raspberry
  • Full-bodied with velvety tannins and vibrant acidity
  • Flavors of berries, garrigue, and sweet spices coat the mouth with a long finish of notes of spices and garrigue 
🍷Domaine La Font de Notre Dame Le Chêne 2016 – Brother duo who built a new brand for themselves
SRP$25/Alcohol: 14.5%/Varieties: 80% Grenache, 10% Mourvèdre, 5% Syrah, 5% Cinsault
This old family estate is run by Frédéric and Boris Roux. The brothers worked under their father for 30 years before taking over the property and establishing La Font de Notre Dame in 2016. The duo cultivates just under 32 acres in Rasteau on south-facing slopes, with clay soils and an abundance of heat-retaining pebbles.
How this wine taste?
  • Expressive blackberry aromas with white pepper, cocoa, and toast 
  • Full-bodied and boasts concentrated notes of ripe fruit
  • Silky tannins stay on the palate through the long finish
🍷Domaine Mikael Boutin M.B. 2016 – Small but an Organic Mighty
SRP$20/Alcohol: 14.5%/Varieties: 60% Grenache, 10% Syrah, 10% Mourvèdre, 10% Carignan, 10% Cinsault
Mikael Boutin is a fifth-generation winemaker, who took over the family’s vineyards in 2008. Boutin’s first bottling was released in 2011. The modest production facility is roughly the size of a two-car garage, mainly holding a few large concrete tanks. Boutin has just under 5 acres of vines averaging 40 years of age, scattered across eight parcels of varying exposures and soils. The small holdings in Rasteau are farmed organically and have been certified since 2012.
How this wine taste?

  • Ripe black plum and cherry aromas on the nose
  • luscious fruit is contrasted by leather, balsamic and brambly, muddy earth
  • rich and framed by fine-grained tannins, with flavors of juicy raspberry, black pepper, and herbs de Provence
🍷Lavau 2015 – Sourced Grapes from family-run vineyards in the community 
SRP$20/Alcohol: 13.5%/Varieties: 50% Grenache, 50% Syrah
In the 1960s, Jean-Guy and Anne-Marie Lavau took over a small winmaking cellar in Sablet. Their sons, Frédéric and Benoît, joined the domaine in the 1990s. The duo took the reigns of the facility in 2000, investing heavily into modernization. Not only did they update the facility, Frédéric and Benoît built a new cellar in Voilès and invested in vineyards. Now fully equipped, Maison Lavau began to produce its own estate wines. While making wine from their 445 acres, Frédéric and Benoît still work with many small, family-run vineyards to be involved in the community.
How this wine taste?
  • Crisp blackberry and cherry flavors, contrasted with savory notes of smoke, garrigue, and mushroom
  • Full-bodied and plush
  • Firm tannins, balanced with lively acidity, leading to a chestnut finish

🐰One Rabbit

While a perfectly roasted turkey is the icon of an American Thanksgiving meal, the bird by no means is easy to cook, perfectly – overcooked white meat and/or undercooked dark meat are commonplace. In lieu of a turkey, the Chinese-style Thanksgiving meals sometimes improvise and opt for other meat dishes that are easier and gamier. What I cooked here is a rabbit mushroom stew that’s modified from the Eat Smarter recipe. It takes much less cooking time but guarantees a great result with tender rabbit meat that’s packed with lots of savory flavors! The common traits of these Rasteau wines – earthiness, smokiness, dark fruit, leather, full-body are an ideal match for the rabbit stew. Even though the rabbit is a bit gamey, the complex notes of the wine tame the taste a bit without overly masking it. You taste the rabbit and the wine, but even more, is the balanced flavor that a good pairing strikes.

🍗Two Turkey Drumsticks

When I go to the theme parks or state fairs, l always love to eat the gigantic turkey drumsticks. They are smoky, juicy and flavorful. Roasting turkey drumsticks by themselves are much easier as these dark meats are fool-proof. To speed up the cooking process, I first cooked the drumsticks in the instant pot at the meat setting for 30 mins, then roasted them in the oven to crisp up the skin.  Since I used dark soya sauce to marinate the drumsticks, they look extra brown after the roast and look truly like the ones you can buy in the state fairs. These Rasteau wines have the savory undertones that work really well with the soya sauce and fatty meat. It’s heavenly when you bite into the crispy skin of the drumsticks and sip these wines. 
Thanksgiving will be here in the US in two weeks. Think Rasteau wines for your meal as they may surprise you, especially your palate!

Disclaimer: wines are the sample. Ideas are mines.

Let see what other #winophiles say about the Rasteau wines: 
  • Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Cam Shares “A Birthday Tradition + Side-by-Side Sips of Domaine de Verquière Rasteau”
  • Cathie from Side Hustle Wino “Getting to Know the Wines of Rasteau”
  • David from Cooking Chat Food Writes About "Chicken Lentil Stew and Rhone Wine from Rasteau"
  • Deanna from Asian Test Kitchen tells us how to “Become a Rasteau—farian”
  • Gwendolyn from Wine Predator says “Go Grenache, Go Rasteau”
  • Jane from Always Ravenous Writes About “Flavors of Provence Paired with Rhône Rasteau Wines”
  • Jeff from Food Wine Click Explains “Rasteau and the Côtes du Rhône Quality Pyramid”
  • Kat from The Corkscrew Concierge Explain How She is “Expanding my Rhône Valley Palate with Rasteau Wine”
  • Linda from My Full Wine Glass Writes about “Basking in the Glow of Rasteau” #Winophiles
  • Liz from What’s in That Bottle Says, “You Like Big Reds? Get to Know Rasteau”
  • Lynn from Savor the Harvest writes about “Rhone Valley Rasteau Cru - A New Generation Wine With Duck Confit #winophiles”
  • Martin from Enofylz Writes About "Getting To Know Rasteau"
  • Nicole from Somm’s Table Shares “Five Nights of Rasteau”
  • Pinny from Chinese Food & Wine Pairings Writes About “One Rabbit, Two Turkey Drumsticks and Four Rasteau Wines”
  • Payal from Keep the Peas writes about “Rasteau: Not So Rustic in the Southern Rhone”
  • Robin from Crushed Grape Chronicles writes about “Fall, Thanksgiving and the flavors of Rasteau”
  • Rupal from Syrah Queen writes, "Rasteau -  Exploring The Gems of Southern Rhone"
  • Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm Shares “A German-Style Shepherds Pie with a French Rasteau”

Saturday, November 9, 2019

#Texasfinewine Pedernales GSM, Rosé, Viognier with Dim Sum #WinePW

The #WinePW blogger friends are taking a wine journey to Texas with Cam of the Culinary Adventures with Cam in the month of November. I was fortunate to taste some Texas wines in May in New York City when some of the producers visited. While I was very impressed with the quality of the wines I tasted, the wines from this state, for the most part, are still very new to me. Thanks to Michelle of the Rockin Red Blog for sourcing the samples from the Texas Fine Wine, I was able to obtain some fine wines from the Pedernales Cellars and to have a deeper dive into what Texas wines are truly about. To add more fun, I’m going to savor these Pedernales Rosé, Viognier, and GSM with Dim Sum.

The story of Pedernales Cellars began with Larry and Jeanine Kuhlken, who planted their first vineyard near Fredericksburg, central Texas in the early 1990s. During this time, Texas wine pioneers worked with different grape varietals and viticulture practices, to help master winemaking in the Texas terroir. The Kuhlken was no exception and has started producing consistently high-quality fruit with bold, intense flavors over time. In 2005, David and Julie, the children of Larry and Jeanine, began plans for what would become Pedernales Cellars, developing the concept for a boutique winery focused on handcrafted, small-lot wines, and working with varietals that thrive in the rugged Texas Hill Country terrain.

Using only Texas grapes that’s suited to grow in the terrain and to make wines that’s truly Texas, Pedernales is still able to grow a wide array of grapes such as Tempranillo, Viognier, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Albarino, Vermentino, Cinsault, Malbec, Touriga Nacional, Bordeaux and Italian varieties and to present an impressively large wine portfolio.

Let’s have a taste of their 2018 Over the Moon Rosé, 2017 Viognier Reserve and 2017 GSM Melange.

2018 Over the Moon Rosé (SRP$30)
While “Over the Moon” can be interpreted into so many beautiful things, this wine label here is to celebrate the love and commitment of the founders of Kuhlken, Larry and Jeanine who have been married for 50 years. One cool fact is that they met while working for NASA on the Apollo 11 mission and have been together ever since. This wine is a Rhone-style dry Rosé that has pronounced red fruit flavors like strawberry, bing cherry and raspberry as well as a long finish with replays of minerality. It’s medium-bodied and has a creamy texture that’s versatile with food.
Pedernales Viognier with Siu Mai, Shrimp Dumplings and Spring Rolls
2017 Viognier Reserve (SRP$40)
Pedernales’ Viognier brought home multiple awards and I know why after tasting this fine wine. On the nose, the Viognier is floral with strong scents of honeysuckle. As you sip, a hint of mango captures your attention, the stone fruit flavors like peach, apricot and pear follow, and a light taste of creamy orange sherbet wraps up the whole experience. With a portion of this wine finishing fermentation in new French Oak barrels, there is a delicate balance of vanilla and warm spice notes coming through to enrich the body of this wine. A complex yet friendly wine to discover!
Pedernales GSM with Beef Balls and Chicken Feet
2017 Texas GSM Melange (SRP$35)
The ‘GSM’ red blend is made from Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre and it’s a classic from the Côtes du Rhône region. This Melange is a fun but mysterious one. Initially, it’s a bit floral on the nose, but with a few sips, it unfolds its dark fruit, cocoa, and smokiness that are more the classic traits of GSM.

What is Dim Sum?
Dim sum is a style of Chinese cuisine, specifically Cantonese. It is prepared as small bite-sized portions of food served in steamer baskets or on plates. It’s like the concept of Spanish tapas when people can taste a wide variety of food when it’s served in small portions. Dim sum dishes are traditionally served with tea as brunch but have evolved as 24/7 good eats in large or small Chinese-style eateries in a bigger city. Dim Sum and wine pairings are also featured by some sophisticated Chinese/Asian restaurants which have a solid wine menu.

For my home pairing purpose, I bought these Dim Sum dishes from the frozen aisle, the bakery and the hot buffet table of the Asian grocery store. Typically, the picture on the frozen packages will give you a very good idea of what’s inside, making the shopping experience a bit easy once you locate the frozen aisle. So what Dim Sum do you need to buy? Think about what you like - seafood, meat, and pastries/buns, and prepare (e.g., steam, fry, microwave) in accordance with the instructions on the package. Let’s take a look at the simple list that forms the basic Dim Sum dishes below:
  • Shrimp dumpling (Har Gow): steam shiny, translucent shrimp dumpling
  • Siu Mai: steam shrimp and pork filling in a smaller ravioli-like wrapper, usually atop with a bit crab or fish roe 
  • Spring roll: fried spring rolls
  • Beef balls: steam seasoned ground beef
  • Chicken feet (Fung Jeow): chicken feet. They are usually stir-fried in black bean source and oyster sauce and then steamed. If you can overcome the idea of eating chicken feet, this is a truly flavorful dish.
  • Assorted Hong Kong-style baked buns: in lieu of the steam buns, I often like to add the baked buns in my Dim Sum party at home as they are sweet and can be served as desserts. These buns are closer to the French- or Japanese-style bakery eats that are fluffy and not too sweet. While these baked buns come in so many flavors nowadays, I always stick with the traditional ones like “cocktail buns” (coconut paste inside), “pineapple” buns (crumbling sweet flour/sugar toppings) and fresh cream buns
Hong Kong Style Buns (top left)
These Dim Sum dishes work beautifully with the featured wines from the Pedernales Cellars as the Rosé works really well with the spring rolls and the baked buns. While the Viognier is a no brainer to the shrimp dumplings and Siu Mui. I’m particularly fond of the GSM with the beef balls and chicken feet. The best part of the meal is to finish the wines until the very last drop in every bottle even when the Dim Sum is long gone!

Disclaimer: wines are samples. Ideas and opinions are mines.

Check out my blogger friends’ posts and see what they pair their Texas fine wines with:

Friday, November 1, 2019

#MerlotMe with Rutherford Hill and Mercer Bros. Merlots and Impress me with Chinese-style Roast Duck #WinePW

When I learned about the invite for #MerlotMe in the month of October from Jeff of Food Wine Click, I immediately signed up for samples and looked forward to some quality tasting of Merlots. To be very honest, Merlots are not my go-to reds. It’s not because of the ripple effect of Sideways, the movie that curses Merlots. The real reason is that I haven’t had any luck to get hold of and taste high-quality Merlots. The ones that are sold in my nearby stores have no personality and no “hooks” that entice me.
Things are changing up here when I received these few samples (i.e., Rutherford Hills 2015 Merlot, Rutherford Hills 2018 Rose of Merlot (Limited Release), and Mercer Bros. 2017 Merlot) from #MerlotMe as these wines have redefined my reality of Merlots. The “hooks” are obvious with these wines - complex characters, intensity, lushly rosy and full potential to pair some serious roasts - Chinese roast duck!

The Rutherford Hill of Napa Valley is a true Merlot pioneer and understands how this grape variety works. When they decided to hone into the winemaking of Merlots by going for low-volume production of Merlots, they produce the elegant and refined Bordeaux-style Merlots. The 2015 Merlot ($34), for example, is full-bodied, dark fruit, structured, and has the notes of milk chocolate and warm spices like anise and clove. These velvety texture and warm-spice flavors are the “hooks” that uniquely distinguish this Merlot from another. 

The 2018 Rosé of Merlot ($34) from Rutherford Hill, on the other hand, is a dry Provence-style Rosé and has the pronounced floral and stone fruit notes. It’s lovely but structured, making it a versatile partner for meat dishes.


The Mercer Bros. of Columbia Valley lie in the idyllic Horse Heaven Hills appellation, on the same land that they’ve farmed since 1886. Their agricultural practices incorporate balance, which drives toward nurturing a plant to produce its highest quality and most abundant fruit. The 2017 Merlot from Mercer is medium-bodied and lightly oaked and has the notes of raspberry jam, ripe plum, sweet cocoa and vanilla. Its finish is long, adding a hint of smokiness and acidity as an after taste. That’s what I consider as the “hooks” of the wine that entice consumers to enjoy, sip after sip and buy again!

Ducks are underused as daily meals in my opinion. This is partly because cooking a duck at home is typically done during the holidays or for special occasions. The gourmet aspect of eating ducks is also due to its availability in selected or fancy restaurants’ menus. Before I share with you the easy instructions to roast a duck in a Chinese-style at home, I also want to distinguish a regular roast duck vs. Peking duck. Peking (Beijing) ducks are really fancy dinners even for Chinese people and are not easily replicated in a home kitchen. The most important feature of a true Peking duck is the detachment of the duck’s skin from the meat. The skin of Peking duck can be skillfully done because air is pumped under the skin through the neck cavity to separate the skin from the fat. The duck is then plunged in boiling water for 1 to 5 minutes, and then hung to dry. This will tighten the skin and help the duck to achieve its maximum crispy texture. Watch this youtube video and find out how Peking duck restaurants finetone the technique. 
Since the skin is so crispy but moist, in the restaurants, the skin is often cut in cracker-size and is eaten with granular sugar sparkled and hoisin sauce drizzled on top – a true delicacy. 
Cracker-like Crispy Peking Duck Skin (Photo Credit:
For the home cook, you can roast a duck in Chinese-style with the simple steps below.
Chinese-style Roast Duck

  • 1 10-12 pound duck
  • 2 tbsp dark soya sauce
  • 2 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 2 tbsp Chinese cooking wine
  • 1 tbsp of Hoisin sauce
  • 1 tbsp 5 spices 
  • ½ tsp ground white pepper 
  • ½ tsp salt 
  • 2 mandarin oranges 
  • scallion
  • Mix the dark soya sauce, oyster sauce, cooking wine, Hoisin sauce, 5 spices, white pepper and salt in a bowl. 
  • Defrost the duck in the fridge and marinate the duck with the mixture at least for 2 hours. Marinating it overnight is preferred. 
  • Turn on the conventional oven setting to 325 degree. 
  • Use tinfoil to cover the duck wings and drumsticks. Put the breast side of the duck on a roasting pan and the back side up. 
  • Roast the duck for 1 ½ to 2 hours or until the internal temperate of the duck leg rises to 165 degree. 
  • Turn the breast side of the duck up. Turn the oven to broil (high) and finish the roasting until the duck breasts are golden brown.
  • Rest the duck on the pan for at least half an hour.

The Chinese roast duck goes perfectly with the Rutherford Hill and Mercer Bros Merlots as the savory, deep-rich flavors from the soya sauce and oyster sauce, as well as the warm spices just go so well with these top-notched Merlots. The chocolate, dark cherry notes and smokiness of these wines replay even more when pairing with the duck. While the Rutherford Hill Rosé of Merlot may not seem to be a logical choice for a roast duck, this Rosé, in particular, has the texture that just clicks with the duck breast that’s juicy but lean.
The holiday season is fast approaching. As we are going to eat and drink a lot with our friends and family, let’s set aside our bias at all levels including the food and wine you consume, allow ourselves to try wines that have been a reinvented identity (e.g., Merlots), or eat a dish that’s unknown to you, or eat a dish at a different time of the day (e.g., Peking duck for lunch) – maybe we’ll gain some new perspectives in food and in life!

Disclaimer: wines are samples. Opinions are mines.

Let’s check out other blogger friends’ #MerlotMe posts:  

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Cahors Malbecs and American Wagyu Beef Asian BBQ #Winophiles

The #Winophiles bloggers are invited by Nicole of Somm's Table to explore the birthplace of Malbec, Cahors in France. Some of us are lucky to receive samples from the Union Interprofessionnelle des Vins de Cahors (UIVC) via the coordination from Jill of L'occasion. A big shout-out to everyone who contributes to the process! Malbec is a beef lover’s mate. Let’s take a look at how my American Wagyu beef BBQ plays out with the three Malbec samples I got: 2016 Château Lamartine Cuvée Particulière Cahors, 2018 Château du Cèdre Extra Libre Malbec, and 2018 Château de Gaudou Le Sang de Ma Terre Malbec. First, let’s learn about the region.
CAHORS AOC – 70% Malbec + 30% Merlot/Tannat
Cahors is a deep red wine (known locally as Côt, Auxerrois and “Vin noir de Cahors”), made from grapes grown in or around the town of Cahors, in the Southwest part of France. Cahors is an Appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC) (Controlled designation of origin) in the French Southwest wine region, with the dominant grape variety of Malbec (a minimum of 70% of the wine) and a supplement of Merlot and Tannat (up to 30%). 
Photo Credit:
GEO & TERROIR – Southwest of France + 2 Terroir Areas
Along the river, from Cahors and the surrounding area to the village of Soturac, the vineyard follows the river from east to west for some 60 km. Although the eastern part of the vineyard is 75 minutes north of Toulouse, the western part lies on the borders of the Nouvelle Aquitaine region, just over 2 hours’ drive east of Bordeaux.
Photo Credit: UIVC
The Cahors vineyard consists of two major terroir areas, Causse and Valley, with very different landscapes. “Causse” is perched higher up, at an altitude of 250 to 350 meters. This is the hillsides and limestone plateau terroir, which is less fertile than the terraces and less influenced by the river. Temperature contrasts between day and night result in the grapes ripening later, with less flesh but undeniable finesse.
The other area is in the “Valley”. This is a “terrace” terroir created by the Lot river.
·       The “first terrace” terroir is located closest to the river. It consists of young and fertile alluvium, with sandy loam soils that yield light, fruity wines.
·       The “second terrace” is five meters higher. This is a limestone terroir where runoff has extracted the finest and most fertile soil elements, with the presence of rounded pebbles. The more clayey soil, when compared to the first terrace, retains water, providing the vineyard with stable hydration and giving the wine body and depth.
·       The “third terrace” consists of two types of soils: a more gravelly limestone soil nearer the plateau, giving the wines great finesse; and a clayey-limestone soil giving the wines fruitiness and strength.
WINES –  Lamartine Cuvée Particulière / Extra Libre / Le Sang de Ma Terre Malbec
The 2016 Château Lamartine Cuvée Particulière Cahors consists of 90% Malbec, 10% Tannat and is produced from old vines from the 2nd and 3rd terrace of the Lot Valley.  In addition to its intensity and complexity, the Cuvée Particulière Cahors exhibits a hint of licorice with the layering of smokiness, dark chocolate, and spices. The 10% Tannat undoubtedly plays a role in the added tannin that makes this wine uniquely complementary to grassy and fatty beef such as Wagyu beef.

The 2018 Château du Cèdre Extra Libre Malbec has 90% Malbec and 10% Merlot, and has no added sulfites. It’s produced from grapes coming from two different types of soil: the first terroir, composed of stony clay and limestone, produces straightforward wines with fine tannins, whereas more powerful and dense wines derive from soils composed of clay, sand and rich in pebbles. The Extra Libre reveals an intense aroma of red and dark fruit. It’s soft on the palate, well-rounded and fresh that will accompany well with non-saucy beef dishes.
2018 Château de Gaudou Le Sang de Ma Terre Malbec is a 100% Malbec, produced mainly on the third terraces but also on the limestone plateau in the Causse of the AOC Cahors by the Durou family. This wine is young, packed with black fruits and dominated by tannins. A dense expression of Malbec from old vines, it has a spicy character. A great wine to go with beef BBQ!
Standing Waygu Beef BBQ at Yakiniku Jiromau in Tokyo
A recent trip to Japan introduced me to the world of Wagyu (i.e., Japanese cows) beef, which is a heavenly experience for beef lovers. Due to the intense fat-marbling of these Japanese cows, the beef, especially the cut of the cow belly, literally melts in your mouth and has an exquisite taste and texture. It’s worth it even though we are talking about around US$5 for a piece of the size of a bandage.
Korean Indoor BBQ at home
To pair these Cahors Malbecs, I can’t think of a better alternative than this fat-marbling beef and found the American version of it via Crowdchow, which is an affordable way to enjoy Wagyu beef sourced in the US.
Yamamoto 100% Black Waygu Cow - Photo Credit:
The Wagyu beef strips I purchased are from the Yamamoto Ranch located in Palestine, Texas. With the help of modern breeding techniques, Yamamoto’s 100% Black Wagyu herd are completely traceable to Japan. The herd, all born and raised on the ranch, is comprised of the Takeda genetics the ranch purchased directly from this highly recognized Wagyu legend from Japan. The herd at Yamamoto are fed corn in addition to grazing on nearly 1,000-acres of Coastal Bermuda in addition to hay and a grain mixture. Yamamoto Wagyu are finished on all-natural, non-GMO hay and grain, resulting in a taste and texture only found in Wagyu — luscious marbling, supreme tenderness and mellow, beefy flavor.

To truly showcase the taste of this American Wagyu beef, I opted to do a Korean BBQ – an indoor grill that sits on a portable gas burner.  As inspired by dipping sauces used in the Japanese Wagyu beef BBQ joint in Tokyo, I have prepared four types of savory condiments as the dipping sauces for the Wagyu beef stripes: regular soya sauce, sugary soya sauce (reduced to syrupy consistency in the sauce pan), Ponzu citrus seasoned soya sauce and rock salt. I personally loved the rock salt with the beef as the true grassy and beefy flavors were unmasked, while my family preferred the syrupy sugary soya sauce. The technique to cook these thinly sliced beef strips is to put them on the hot grill quickly like 1 minute on each side. Dip them in the sauces of your choice and enjoy it with a bowl of brown rice as well as side vegetable dishes (e.g., Asian cucumber salad, sautéed mushrooms, stir-fried cabbage and scallion).
Although there are various degrees of intensity and complexity of these Cahors Malbecs, overall, these wines do a perfect tango with the fatty and grassy beef. When Malbec is a beef lover’s mate, these Cahors Malbecs are soulmates to this Wagyu beef!

Disclaimer: wines are samples. Opinions are mine.

Check out our blogger friends’ Cahors Malbec exploration and see what dishes they pair with these wines:

Jane from Always Ravenous explores the "Flavors of Fall Paired with Cahors Malbec"
Cathie of Side Hustle Wino looks at "Cahors  - The Birthplace of Malbec"
Jill from L’Occasion shares "Cahors, a French Classic"
Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla will be posting "Château du Cèdre Extra Libre 2018 Malbec + Cider-Braised Chicken Thighs"  
Wendy Klik of A Day in the Life on the Farm samples "A Trio of Cahors Wine and the Pairings Served"  
Jeff of FoodWineClick! gives us "The Malbec You Never Knew: Cahors"
Linda of My Full Wine Glass shares "Newbies to Old-World Malbec Discover Cahors"
Cindy of Grape Experiences explores "The Old-World Style of Malbec from Cahors"
Deanna of Asian Test Kitchen give us "French Malbecs Meet Chinese Duck" 

Gwen from Wine Predator shares From Cahors: Biodynamic Chateau du Cedre Malbec with French Charcuterie

Pinny of Chinese Food & Wine Pairings matches Cahor Malbecs and Waygu Beef

Cynthia and Pierre of Traveling Wine Profs give us "Cahors, Hainan Chicken Rice, and the Stories Wine Books Tell"

Susannah of Avvinare will be Shedding Light on Old World Malbec from Cahors

Payal of Keep the Peas discusses Cahors: What Put Malbec on the Map

Rupal of Syrah Queen will posting Cahors - Tasting “Black Wines” With The Original Malbec

David of Cooking Chat pairs Mushroom Truffle Risotto with Cahors Malbec
Nicole will be "Bringing Home Cahors with Clos D’Audhuy" here on Somm's Table.